The authors say that while speculating on the health implications of gut microbiome differences should be done with caution, gut diversity has been linked to health outcomes across the lifespan. Credit: Neuroscience News
COVID Pandemic Infants Show Reduced Gut Microbiome Diversity
Summary: Infants who spent most of their first year during the COVID-19 pandemic have a less diverse gut microbiome compared to those born pre-pandemic. Researchers found lower levels of certain bacteria, like Pasteurellaceae and Haemophilus, and overall fewer types of bacteria in the gut.
These changes may be influenced by pandemic-related shifts in social behavior, such as more time spent at home and less in daycare, altered diet, and increased caregiver stress. The researchers caution that while gut diversity has been linked to long-term health, the direct implications of these findings require further study.
Infants born during the pandemic exhibited lower alpha diversity in their gut microbiome, meaning they had fewer types of bacteria present.
Social changes induced by the pandemic, such as more home time and altered breastfeeding practices, are suggested as potential influencing factors for the reduced diversity.
The study compared gut microbiome data from stool samples of 34 pre-pandemic and 20 pandemic infants in New York City.
Infants who spent most of their first year in the pandemic have fewer types of bacteria in their gut than infants born earlier, according to a team of developmental psychology researchers.
The findings, published in Scientific Reports, showed that infants whose gut microbes were sampled during the pandemic had lower alpha diversity of the gut microbiome, meaning that there were fewer species of bacteria in the gut.
The infants had a lower abundance of Pasteurellaceae and Haemophilus—bacteria that live within humans and can cause various infections—and significantly different beta diversity, which tells us how similar or dissimilar the gut microbiome for two groups may be.
The authors indicate in their article that the differences may have been influenced “by the social changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with infants potentially experiencing more time at home, less time in daycare interacting with other children, increased hygiene in the environment, changes to diet and breastfeeding practices, and increased caregiver stress…”
“The COVID-19 pandemic provides a rare natural experiment to help us better understand how the social environment shapes the infant gut microbiome, and this study contributes to a growing field of research about how changes to an infant’s social environment might be associated with changes to the gut microbiome,” says Sarah C. Vogel, the article’s co-lead author and recent doctoral graduate from NYU Steinhardt’s Developmental Psychology program.
For their study, the authors compared stool samples of two socioeconomically and racially diverse group of 12-month-olds living in New York City that were provided before the pandemic (34 infants) and between March and December of 2020 (20 infants).
The authors say that while speculating on the health implications of gut microbiome differences should be done with caution, gut diversity has been linked to health outcomes across the lifespan.
“In adults we know that lower diversity of the microbiota species in the gut has been linked to poorer physical and mental health,” says Natalie Brito, senior author and associate professor at NYU Steinhardt. “But more research is needed on the development of the gut microbiome during infancy and how the early caregiving environment can shape those connections.”
Funding: This study was funded by grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R00HD086255) and the SRCD Small Grants Program for Early Career Scholars.
About this neurodevelopment and COVID-19 research news
Author:Jade McClain Source: NYU Contact: Jade McClain – NYU Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News
A comparison of the infant gut microbiome before versus after the start of the covid-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting public health directives led to many changes in families’ social and material environments. Prior research suggests that these changes are likely to impact composition of the gut microbiome, particularly during early childhood when the gut microbiome is developing most rapidly. Importantly, disruption to the gut microbiome during this sensitive period can have potentially long-lasting impacts on health and development.
In the current study, we compare gut microbiome composition among a socioeconomically and racially diverse group of 12-month old infants living in New York City who provided stool samples before the pandemic (N = 34) to a group who provided samples during the first 9-months of the pandemic (March–December 2020; N = 20).
We found that infants sampled during the pandemic had lower alpha diversity of the microbiome, lower abundance of Pasteurellaceae and Haemophilus, and significantly different beta diversity based on unweighted Unifrac distance than infants sampled before the pandemic. Exploratory analyses suggest that gut microbiome changes due to the pandemic occurred relatively quickly after the start of the pandemic and were sustained.
Our results provide evidence that pandemic-related environmental disruptions had an impact on community-level taxonomic diversity of the developing gut microbiome, as well as abundance of specific members of the gut bacterial community.